Saturday, 30 March 2013

What have I started

That's exactly what I was asking screaming at myself this morning.
You see yesterday I decided on a whim that it was the day I was going to build my 3 bay compost area. Originally I was going to build it on a fresh area of land next to the polytunnel but I didnt think I would have all the materials I would have needed to do that and so because I am the sort of person who wants what I want when I want it, I started looking around at what I could adapt to fit.
At first I figured I shouldn't dismantle the plant pot holder I made a few years back out of old pallets

but then I figured 'what the heck', I didn't use it that much last year and anyways it just encourages me to keep stuff in small pots for too long plus the current plastic compost bin is in a bay directly to the right of the pallet pot holder.
So I ripped the whole thing apart!
Well it seemed like a good idea at the time and when I went in last night with an unfinished project on my mind I was quite oblivious as to how awkward the project would prove to be. It wouldn't have been at all awkward if I'd just started the darned thing from scratch but the way I was doing it (making it up as I go along) meant alot of hand sawing and attempting to make the whole thing at least look level (no spirit level was involved - too much hassle when I just want a job 'done').
When I eagerly walked over this morning to continue the job this is what I was faced with

That is so not how I remember leaving it last night.
After alot of jaw gaping and confusion I set to work to get the entire thing finished today. The  thing that makes my projects so unpredictable and messy is that I never ever EVER work from a plan, not even in my head in this instance. I literally made the whole thing up as I went along and finding materials to fit the mess I had created was getting a bit annoying, it has to be said.
Eventually (when I left it this afternoon) it looked like this

It's not finished. I still need to add wooden slats to the two end pallets to keep the compost in (I only got round to doing the middle bay) and I need two more decent pallets for gates but it'll do the job.
Now I'm hoping I can finally get some decent compost going because the stuff I've been making over the last couple of years is pretty naff.
I had a plastic bin in that right hand bay and I emptied it all into the middle bay but after being in the plastic bin for approx 18 months this is what it looked like

Seriously slow at rotting down and absolutely no heat.
I'm hoping the bigger bays combined with better chopping up of materials will get me some of the good stuff. I haven't made lids for the bays so I'm going to keep an eye on them and cover with polythene if I think they need it.

Friday, 29 March 2013

All in a good days work..

Never before have I had Tomato seedlings pricked out and potted individually by the end of March, but I'm at least 1 month ahead of normal due to my fabulous heated propagator.
The chives and Garlic chives are also now ready for pricking out and potting up and the Peppers will also be soon too (peppers are not usually even sown until end of April due to low temps).
I'm surprised that the Cucumbers and Courgettes are not showing signs of life yet though so I think today I'll move those into the heated propagator to give them the warmth they obviously need.
But hey, I'm delighted with the Tomatoes!

Yesterday I decided to whip up a quick trug from recycled materials to carry my gardening tools from one area to the other. I sometimes use those pouches that clip round the waist but I find them uncomfortable and no way can you get down and dirty with the weeds when you have several hand tools, secateurs and scissors strapped to your waist.
A while ago I made a scrapwood trug but decided not to use it in the garden because it's too pretty and I'd be really bugged if I got it dirty so it sits in the craft room.

Here's the one I whipped up yesterday

I decided against any prettifying of it because it's going to get battered and in fact - to prove a point - when I put it down on the garden the first thing Huntly tried to do was pee up it! I saved it that time but next time who knows...

Once I had my trug made I went to tackle these

Those are Pampas grass that I planted last year to form a hedge that could withstand the wind we get here. There's other plants I could use as I don't particulary like handling pampas grass but I had a whole heap of these that needed using.
The only problem is the dogs! You can see the damage they've caused by trampling on them and laying on them (originally they looked very healthy plants - honest).
I contemplated pulling them all out and planting something on the other side of the fence where the dogs dont go but instead I did this

It's only temporary to allow the plants to grow but I'm still not sure it's a great idea. My back was turned for 5 minutes after I finished staking those tubes and Huntly had already pulled a tube from the stake and was chucking it around in the air. Think I need to come up with a different plant plan before the Pampas grows too big and is an issue to remove.

More land clearance was tackled by Mr TG yesterday (with the unexpected help form one of daughters) and we didnt get back in doors until sundown

I hope the weather is improving wherever you are today and allowing you to get out and treat yourself to some garden therapy.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Land clearing

Well, we've had another day of warmish spring weather and no wind to speak of, finally it feels as though spring might have sprung - or is just a false sense of security!
This photo shows just what the difference is between March 2013 and March 2012

Looks like we had it in the 20's last year and have only reached 3 degrees this year, however I'm looking on the optimistic side and hope that seeing as we had a pathetic summer last year despite higher spring temperatures, maybe ... just maybe we'll get a better summer this year due to the rubbish spring temperatures. Does it even work like that!

Anyway, we may have woken up to a hard frost/snow this morning but that sun soon shone through and Mr TG was back out there rotavating the land.
The 4 acres we have here is terrible ground. It's smothered with thick marsh grass that forms huge ground lumps, is full of digger ruts and covered with Gorse bushes so every area Mr TG works on has to first be strimmed to the ground, all the grass and weeds raked, then the area rotovated, levelled and finally flattened with a makeshift roller.
Hard, hard work and I'm just hoping that Mr TG doesn't have it in his head that he can do the whole 4 acres this way

See the makeshift roller on the right? It should attach to the back of a ride on lawnmower but it doesn't work so Mr TG has adapted it so that he can pull it by hand.

Naff crumbling wall huh.

You may wonder why we haven't just got a big machine in to do the work in a fraction of the time but to cut a long story short - we can't.
We had a couple of locals out to give prices for the work but all insisted that the marsh grass and gorse would knacker their machines, there is but one place that has the equipment needed apparently but that place refuses to do it because a few years ago we helped our neighbour with a dispute they had with this company. The worse bit to that is that we no longer speak to the neighbours!
Anyway Mr TG is just about stubborn enough to do it all himself and all it costs us is the diesel for the tiller, though tonight Mr TG has mentioned taking his Uber blow torch to the grass first for the rest of it.
Worried?  Who me?? About an Uber blow torch in the hands of someone who has no sense of danger?? You freaking betcha I am!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Another sickly plant.....

I posted about my sickly Skimmias the other day and now I'm posting about my sickly Camelia - another ericaceous loving plant.
Unlike the skimmias that were potted wrong and in unsuitable soil this Camelia is in a large enough pot, in ericaceous compost and has been fed according to instructions as often as required, I'm pretty sure this can't be Chlorosis.
And yet it still looks like this

Despite obviously ailing from something the Camelia is covered with healthy buds as usual

Anyone have any idea of what it suffers from? I'd really love to know.
All I can think of from a little internet searching is that maybe it's getting too much sunlight. I keep it in the polytunnel as it would not survive up here outside and it isn't shaded in any way. I wouldn't have thought that would be an issue but apparantly Camelias do not like early morning sun - who knew!
But would excess sunlight cause this? Could those brown splodges be burns?
I've quickly moved it to a slightly more shaded area of the polytunnel to avoid too much sunlight but  I'm not even sure if this is what ails it. HELP!! I love my Camelia and would hate to lose it cos it produces flowers like this

On a brighter note, guess who managed to get out in the garden today? Go on guess.....
Yup, yup, yup the snow (what there was of it) has gone, the winds have dropped to barely noticeable and this means the temperatures are not quite so cold as they have been.
So myself and Mr TG (rare day off from work, well his usual work anyway) spent the day outside - I was clearing ugly borders ready for moving around of perennials and a serious mulching and Mr TG was rotovating and everything else associated with being stubborn enough (and foolish enough?) to believe he can turn all the land over with just his trusty rototiller.

He's actually done alot more than is shown here but I wasn't nearby to catch a picture of him rotovating (I'll snag him tomorrow though) so a raking picture will have to suffice for now.
He's determined to do this himself (maybe to prove his COPD does not affect him one iota -insert rolling eyes here) and luckily we're not bothered about a perfect field. we just want to get it levelled enough to mow it (it's full of digger tracks and Dane holes and a danger to walk on at the mo).

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Forest Boyz.

Please forgive me for posting a non garden/plant related topic today but I just couldn't resist this.
My daughters and I are horse mad and especially love the Friesian breed so you can imagine my delight when I came across 'The Forest Boyz' website. I decided that instead of moaning yet again about the weather (which hasn't changed btw)  I would share some amazing images of The Forest Boyz - a feel good post if you like.

"Meike, Menno & Saphire are Friesian stallions that live together in a bachelor herd in the forests of the Northern California coast. Meike (Feike x Leffert – 2004) & Menno (Feike x Sjaard – 2004) are half-brothers that have been raised together. I have the great privilege of being their caretaker, along with our beloved Saphire (Rintse x Yk – 2005). He is owned by Catherine de Bellou and her husband Chris. He is attending Forest Boyz camp till Mountain View is big enough to hold him. They are the best of friends and good medicine to all that know them. They never fail to entertain."  Laura Zugzda

How amazingly gorgeous are those boys and what an amazing sight that would be, to see them free and natural. I'll most definitely be checking out 'The Forest Boyz' regularly for updated photographs of Meike, Manno & Sapphire.

Normal garden related posting will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Skimmia needs help.........

It seems as though I do nothing but moan about the weather at the moment and to be honest I really shouldn't because we have it much better up here than our southern neighbours (for a change) however it really is flippin freezing here.
I wrapped up this morning with thermal clothing, layers of jumpers, thick trousers, a coat, gloves and my 'Hotheadz' hoodie and even then I still froze. We don't have the forecasted snow though it's just a biting gale force wind that is causing the temperature drop.
I messed around outside for as long as I could take it but then headed back in to the warmth of the house.

Here's something I've been meaning to look into for a while now and keep forgetting. I have a couple of Skimmia Japonica - one is planted in the ground and one is in a pot. The pot one looks quite straggly and sickly and while the planted one is a lovely shaped shrub the colour is looking a little yellow to me - what do you think?

It's not just me it IS looking sickly isn't it?

The planted one is in a shaded position so I know it's not getting too much sunlight. When I was potting up the other one I checked the roots so I know there's no issue there. The only other thing I can think of is Chlorosis.
So with Chlorosis in mind I guess I should maybe add an Iron product to the soil? Or should I dig it up, check the surrounding soil and then dig in more suitable soil before replacing? Or do I spray the leaves? Or do I do both soil and foliage treatment?  Is it ok to dilute the soil application to spray on the leaves or do I need a special feed?
Could really do with some help on this one guys because I've looked it all up on the internet and I'm more confused than I was before - have any of you guys had a similar experience and managed to rectify it?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Look what can be made...

I bet many of us garden bloggers spend a fair bit of time reading other blogs of interest and/or typing some relevant search into Google and seeing what it comes up with (I seriously can't be the only one that does this.....can I).
I'm more of a visual gal so once I've typed in what I'm looking for I go straight to 'images' and check out the results that way.
There's been many times when I've seen something so awesome and yet so obvious and thought to myself 'why the heck didn't I come up with that?' and I'll often pin them to 'Pinterest' even though I hardly ever go back to look at them afterwards.

Today I just have to share some of the awesomeness I've found online and I found this idea over at 'Creative DIY Gardening'. If you live with a sloping garden I think this would be an amazing way to grow veggies - if you're not a veggie grower then just imagine it plastered with flower power

Creative DIY Gardening

How's this next one for a veggie or flower trellis from 'The stir', or even just as a garden divide as a piece of art in its own right. Easy to make with copper pipe and joins and when it's weathered it will take on a more muted  tone (though personally I would want it to stay looking this good and copperish)

'The stir'
This 'DIY garden hose hanger' is one of those obvious ones that I wish I'd thought of, however I will definitely be doing this as it's such a nice way of keeping that unsightly hose tidy. It could also have a couple of hanging baskets attached to it to make it look even prettier.

DIY garden hose hanger

I have very clear ideas of what I want in a garden (even though my garden resembles none of them) and this next image of 'Eudora Welty's backyard garden' shows it perfectly. I love this

I could spend so much time sitting there surrounded by my favourite flower - the Rose.

This next one is another project I have had on my to do list for the past couple of years - leaf castings. 'The Yarnability' made some as bird baths but whatever use you want a leaf casting for 'The Yarnability' have a very clear and concise tutorial on their web. I've planned to do Gunnera and Fatsia leaves so hopefully this year I'll actually get round to it.

Hope you enjoyed all the awesomeness.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Spring bulbs

This weather really is screwed up right now isn't it!  One minute we have mild, sunny days and manage to get a whole heap done outside and then BAM! down with the snow, ice cold winds and frozen earth and no hope of getting anything productive done outside.

All these years of gardening and I've never ever planned for spring colour. I have the odd clump of Daffodils planted sporadically around the flower beds but that's it and so I've really missed out on Spring interest in the garden.
I don't know why I've never bothered to incorporate Spring bulbs into the garden - I guess maybe I thought it was pointless (I hear that intake of breath y'know) but having spent so many months getting hooked on other gardening blogs and seeing the riot of colour available this time of year I've decided to make a change this year.
On Sunday we took a trip out to to the town and I managed to pick up a few Spring bulbs at some bargain prices (We have no garden centres here so it's basically a case of seeing what's available in Tesco, Homebase or Poundstretcher). I managed to get 16 Lily of the Valley for £5,   90 Muscari for £1.50 and 30 Pushkini for £0.49.  It's a start!

Muscari, Pushkinia & Lily of the valley at bargain prices.

All bulbs/plants have been potted up ready to grow on and then I'll plant them out at the end of summer when I can see where I want them to come up next year.

The Tomato seeds I sowed a few weeks ago are all doing well and I'll get them pricked out pretty soon. I'm so excited because I have never had seedlings up this early in the year so I'm quite confident that this means some ripe fruit this year.

Tomato seedlings.

I've also sown Brassica seeds (Cabbage, Cauli etc) and I'm hoping this years attempt will be better than my last attempt.  I didn't bother with much veg growing last year because I'd become cheesed off with the whole thing but the year before this is what happened to pretty much all my Brassicas

Dessicated Cabbages

Well can't get much worse can it! guess I'll have to be more on the ball with removing those caterpillars or else getting some netting over the lot of em.

However my Climbing French Beans gave me weeks of regular pickings, but I did come to the conclusion that growing them in the polytunnel was not one of my brightest ideas - they grew to Triffid proportions and literally took over and decided to use the Sweetcorn as an extension of their own poles.

Climbing French Beans.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

What's growing

I had today all planned out. Yesterday I did a whole heap of clearing at the polytunnel and at the greenhouse area so that today I could concentrate on the actual garden and the mess that it's become. However today it has decided to rain! It rained all last night as well so even if the stuff stops very soon the garden will be too mushy to work with and I'll just end up making things worse. Great!

The other day I headed into the garden with my camera to look for a bloom or two that I could submit to GBBD (Garden Bloggers Bloom Day) but to my dismay I found nothing, not a single smidging of colour anywhere. I'm certainly going to have to work on this and have decided to start looking into Spring plants that I can add to the garden this year for future spring indulgence.
What I did manage to find though was a lot more new growth than I realised was there. Take a cursory look at my borders and you'll see dead, dead, dead everywhere, nothing appears to be wanting to wake up, however when I got really up close and personal I was pleasantly surprised.

This one surprised me the most. These are Lily bulbs I planted last year and not only did they survive the winter outside but they're already shooting back into growth - ahead of the ones in my polytunnel.

This next one is a self seeded Leycesteria Formosa. I love this plant because it does exceptionally well up here and self seeds so easily, which means no having to take cuttings (which I'm crap at btw).

Leycesteria Formosa aka Pheasantberry bush/ Himalayan honeysuckle.

These aquilegia (Columbine) are beautiful when in flower but they have self seeded literally everywhere now and have become so much of a nuisance that their few weeks of beauty pale in comparison. I'll be doing some serious clearing of them this year.

Aquilegia - gorgeous flowers but self seeds prolifically.

This Rhododendron never fails to provide a riot of blooms every year. A bargain from 'Lidls' a few years back it's again smothered in buds.

I seriously dislike this next plant. I got a small piece of it many years ago from my SIL (who warned me of it's desire to roam - which I ignored of course) and now I would love nothing more than to eradicate it from the garden entirely. It's lovely to look at and makes a great ground cover plant but like so many grasses it is amazingly invasive and tenacious and I spend   waste so much time trying to control it it's ridiculous.

The dreaded unknown grass. Grows to about 6" but spreads for ever.

One of my all time favourite staple garden plant is the Hardy Geranium aka Cranesbill. I have just 6 different varieties in my garden but they can always be replied on to provide splendid flowers even when the salt wind and rain mid summer has obliterated others.
For unusual colour I like 'Johnsons Blue' as it's the one true blue flower I've ctually seen. I have an unknown pink variety which loves any type of soil and situation and provides a neat mat of colour from late spring to winter (though after a couple of years it tends to get very untidy, invasive and straggly looking).
But my absolute favourite so far is Geranium x. Oxonianum, I was astounded when I first saw the lovely star shaped flowers of this neat clump forming perennial and I immediately obtained some for my garden.
Unfortunately - for now - you'll have to take my word for how splendid this plant is going to be

Geranium x.Oxonianum

Cordylines are not a plant I would say I 'need' in my garden. I've grown them twice in pots and although the Green one is still alive it looks decidedly unhappy (note to self I must rescue the cordyline this year) and the Red one died (I think the Red ones are more tender).
So I was very surprised to find that one had self seeded in amongst my Iris bulbs a couple of years ago. I would dearly love to move it to somewhere more pleasing to myself but I think this is one time when I am going to leave it where nature intended (OK I admit, I have no idea how to move one without killing it).

Just look at the state of ground! And yet this is the position it chose to live.
There are heaps more plants started to spring into life again such as The Weigela, Mock Orange, Lupins, Roses, Hydrangeas, Iris's etc etc and it certainly gives me the hope that Spring and finally Summer are just around the corner.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I wanted to take part in the 'Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 2013" over at 'May Dreams Gardens' and as the whole idea is to photograph what is blooming in your garden at that particular moment I eagerly headed outside with the camera.
Guess what's bloomin in my garden right now?  (I interpret this to mean a flower of some kind)
Nothing, nada, zilch!
I was however quite suprised to see so much new growth on many of the plants because I had assumed everything was still dormant (it looked it from a distance), but no flowers or even a flower bud to show for my efforts. Darn it!
All is not lost though because I noticed this little statement on carols blog "It’s easy to join in. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms."
I may not have anything flowering outside but inside I have some tulips bought for me by my daughter. Granted they're only flowering because they're shop bought stems but they do have a flower, so technically I have something to post - which is a good thing because I've waited a fair few days to join in with this.

So here's my bloomin flowers

Hopefully next month things will have caught up a little but I guess that is going to depend on whether we suffer with a cold snap that could very well damage those plants that are trying to wake up after the winter.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Here comes the snow again....

Oh dear, the snow arrived today. It's not much of a show but enough to stop me from wanting to get out there

It's not all gloom and snow though. I took a quick peek in the heated propagator in the greenhouse and all the Tomato seeds have peeped through. I am so glad I decided to dabble with a heated propagator

Normally I wouldn't even have been able to sow the seeds for another month or so and even then they would take weeks to germinate due to the lack in temperature - fingers crossed I am actually going to get some ripe fruit this year.
I think I'll make another sowing in a couple of weeks though just in case these ones turn out to be too early and don't make it.

I also got round to cleaning out that workshop/Greenhouse the other day.
It's never going to look as tidy and organised as I would like because it's just too small to serve the 2 purposes I need it for but at least it's useable again now and if I sort out some shelving on that back wall then I think I can clear it even more

Before & After
Before & After

Like I said it's not brilliant but it works.